Worldloppet Gets Underway In Australia

FasterSkierSeptember 8, 2006

The sixteenth Kangaroo Hoppet, Australia's international ski marathon, was
held today Saturday August 26 at Falls Creek in north-east Victoria.
Twenty-one year old Ben Sim from Cooma in NSW made it back to back
victories in the men's event, winning ahead of Pascal Grab from Switzerland
and Cameron Morton from Mt Hotham in Victoria. The women's event was won by
Natascia Leonardi-Cortesi from Switzerland, ahead of Katherine Calder from
Canberra and Falls Creek local Belinda Phillips.

The Kangaroo Hoppet is the opening race of the 2006/2007 Worldloppet series
of ski marathons, which are held in 14 countries around the world. Despite
marginal snow around the country this winter, conditions at Falls Creek for
the event were near perfect, with a handy dump of snow on Friday followed
by a good freeze overnight and perfect weather during the day. The main
event was held on a 14km loop on the upper Falls Creek trails adjacent to
the alpine ski area. More than 800 competitors from 22 countries entered in
the three race distances of 28km, 14km, and 6km. The main race distance was
reduced to 28km because of likely congestion on the track.

In the men's event a four member group formed after 5km, including Sim,
Morton, Grab, and Brian McKeever from Canada. McKeever lost contact at the
end of the first 14km lap, then Sim made his move from the other three on
the climb up to the Falls Creek Summit at about the 18km mark. From there
he didn't look back, and won the 28km race in a time of just of 1 hour and
13 minutes. Grab consolidated third place ahead of Morton in the latter
stages of the race. Sim, who won the Hoppet for the first time in 2005, is
a scholarship holder of the NSW Institute of Sport. The next major event on
his horizon is the 2007 World Championship in Japan next February.

Leonardi-Cortesi made a good start in the mass start event and was highly
placed amongst the men right throughout the race. Second placed Calder
tried to move up through the field, however never managed to get into
contact with her Swiss competitor. The battle for third place amongst the
women was a lot tighter, between former Hoppet winners Phillips and Camille
Melvey from Bondi, and 2006 Winter Olympian Esther Bottomley from Mt
Beauty. Melvey was reeled in by Bottomley and Phillips towards the end of
the first lap, then Phillips went clear into third at the same place that
Sim made his move. Melvey led Bottomley into the finish straight, but
unfortunately fell as Bottomley drew level 20m before the line.

Leonardi-Cortesi has been a member of the Swiss Ski Team for many years,
and has been training at Falls Creek for three weeks in her first trip to
Australia. Her international merits include a bronze medal in the relay at
the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, and three victories in the
Engadin Ski Marathon. Her best placing at the 2006 Winter Olympics in
Torino was 16th in the Pursuit.

The 14km Australian Birkebeiner and 6km Joey Hoppet events were hotly
contested by three different nations, with the podium places filled by two
skiers from the USA, four by New Zealanders, and six Australians.

The Kangaroo Hoppet was also the final race in the 2006 FIS Australia / New
Zealand Cup, the only Continental Cup series in the southern hemisphere.
With his win today Ben Sim confirmed also the overall victory in the men's
series, ahead of Geoffroy Pais from France who managed only 8th today. The
women's series was won by Samantha Bondarenko from New Zealand ahead of
Natascia Leonardi Cortesi, who didn't contest the New Zealand round of
events three weeks ago.

2006 Kangaroo Hooppet
28km Freestyle
1 Ben Sim AUS 1:13:17
2 Pascal Grab SUI 1:14:17
3 Cameron Morton AUS 1:15:22
4 Brian McKeever CAN 1:16:31
5 Ben Derrick AUS 1:16:33
6 Anthony Evans AUS 1:16:46
7 Chris Darlington AUS 1:17:04
8 Geoffroy Pais FRA 1:17:39
9 Gaber Lah SLO 1:20:15
10 Mark Raymond AUS 1:21:23

1 Natascia Leonardi-Cortesi SUI 1:23:20
2 Katherine Calder AUS 1:28:27
3 Belinda Phillips AUS 1:34:04
4 Esther Bottomley AUS 1:35:16
5 Camille Melvey AUS 1:35:24
6 Samantha Bondarenko NZE 1:38:25
7 Carla Zijlstra NED 1:42:56
8 Karen Messenger CAN 1:43:37
9 Jane Scheer AUS 1:44:11
10 Robyn Rodd AUS 1:45:55

14km Australian Birkebeiner
1 Neil van der Ploeg AUS
2 Callum Watson AUS
3 Bryce Turzian USA

1 Alexa Turzian USA
2 Aimee Watson AUS
3 Chloe McConville AUS

7km Joey Hoppet
1 Mark Hogg NZE
2 Matt Swinburn NZE
3 Aiden Jago AUS

1 d'Arcy Baxter AUS
2 Anna Hogg NZE
3 Samantha Williamson NZE


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